Drivers pushed their machines to blistering speeds and set multiple records during Speed Week Aug. 11-17 at the Bonneville Salt Flats near Wendover.
“We had 11 runs over 400 mph and that was a first,” said Pat McDowell, president of the Southern California Timing Association. “Half of those runs were more than 450 mph.”
He said 168 records were set in various categories of race cars and motorcycles during the week. Categories were determined by engine size, body type and other criteria.
About 2,100 runs were made on the four courses, which possibly could be a record for Speed Week, McDowell said.
“There are infinite categories. We had one record set for a type of 50cc motorcycle at 35 mph,” McDowell said.
Race cars zipping along the salt at speeds in excess of 400 mph thrilled McDowell.
“They all took their turn and it was amazing to watch,” he said.
Team Vesco’s Turbinator II clocked the fastest time during Speed Week at 463.038 mph on Aug. 13. Vesco Racing headquarters is in Rockville, Utah.
Results showed the car at speeds of 310 mph after 2 miles, 369 mph after 2 ¼ mile, 391 mph after 3 miles, 437 mph after 4 miles and 463.038 after 5 miles.
Longtime car builder and driver Danny Thompson set a record in his Challenger 2, a car his father Mickey Thompson helped build in 1968.
Thompson hit 450.909 mph on Aug. 12. Averaged with his Aug. 11 speed of 446.605, it established a new two-way AA/FS record of 448.757 to make it the world’s fastest piston powered record holder. AA is the engine size and FS stands for fuel streamliner.
“I’ve been working on this project seven days a week for the past eight years,” Thompson said referring to restoring the Challenger 2.
In 1968 his dad and a group of Southern California gearheads created a vehicle they believed had the potential to become the world’s fastest hot rod, Thompson said.
“They worked for Ford and they just got it tested and ready to run in ‘68, but it rained out on the Salt Flats,” Thompson said. “Ford quit racing in ‘69 and the car went into storage.”
He said that after a year of work, his team made a run with the car last year at Bonneville and clocked 432 mph. The team’s goal was to hit 450 mph for the world record.
“It took a lot of elbow grease and a few modifications, but I feel like we’ve finally been able to fulfill their dream from back in 1968,” Thompson said.
The driver said he needed a team of 18 people to help work on the car, plus several other volunteers helped out on the Salt Flats..
“These people are just passionate about racing, they basically gave up a week’s salary to go to the Salt Flats and work on helping us break this record,” Thompson said. “It really was the hardest thing I’ve done in my entire life. People congratulated me after and the word that kept using was ‘tenacity.’ They said keeping with it through all these years took a lot of tenacity.
“Bonneville can be quite cruel and can rip you apart and blow engines, but it’s hallowed ground for racing,” he said. “The salt was smooth this year and almost like it was back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Lack of rain helped out.”
The event has drawn more spectators in the past, but the number of runs this year could be a record, McDowell said.
“Mother Nature was very kind to us this year with a dry winter and more salt being added by Intrepid,” McDowell said. “Salt was put down and it stayed dry. Hopefully, we’ll have similar conditions when we go back there in October for World Finals.”
Intrepid is a potash company adjacent to the Salt Flats.
“It truly was a historic sight to see last week out there [on the Bonneville Salt Flats],” McDowell said. “I’m proud to be a part of it all for the past 20 years.”
Both Thompson and McDowell credited Save the Salt Foundation for its work to protect the Bonneville Salt Flats.